Bungling, corruption frustrate motor industry  


Quest Motors Director Tarik-Adam shows some of the vehicles kits at the Mutare plant

By Kenneth Matimaire
 MUTARE — Government bungling and corruption have emerged as the biggest impediments frustrating the resuscitation of the country’s ailing motor industry.

At its peak, the industry had players such as Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries, Deven Engineering, Quest Motor Corporation (QMC), and AVM Africa with capacity to employ over 50 000 workers with potential downstream benefits for 10 000 more people engaged in manufacturing glass, tyres, carpets, paint, seats and exhaust pipes, among other products. But the companies are  now pale shadows of their former selves.
Despite acknowledging the key role the motor industry plays in the country’s economic matrix, government has continued to dither on its development by allowing massive vehicle imports.
While the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development has taken the Executive and Cabinet to task over their handling of the sector, little hope lies on the horizon.
A recent national tour of assembling plants, by the Portfolio Committee on Transport, exposed policy bungling and an element of underhand dealings that has resulted in government importing vehicles at the expense of local assemblers.
There is a standing directive that government ministries, parastatals and local authorities should purchase vehicles locally.
Notwithstanding, they continue to buy from foreign lands.
Local motor assemblers fired from the hip during the tour, indicating that there was retrogressive policy inconsistencies at Cabinet level because some ministers and government officials were corruptly benefitting from the importation of vehicles.
Government is this year planning to spend US$25 million on importing 290 FAW buses from China after importing 50 of the same buses last year.
Other government departments have separately imported a combined total of close to 1 300 vehicles this year alone.
Despite equally good vehicles being assembled locally, the continued importation of vehicles by government goes against the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset) blueprint, which also seeks to promote the growth of local industries.
“Our biggest competition is our own government,” said QMC director, Tarik Adam.
“They know we are assembling vehicles and buses, but they let their ministries and departments import vehicles. They break their own laws in the process. Laws are there (which mandates government to purchase vehicles locally), but the very same government which put them does not respect its own laws. Ministers, VP (Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa), ZIMRA have all been here, but nothing has changed…They are still importing because someone is benefiting,” he added.
ZIMRA is the acronym for the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, the tax collecting agency.
QMC operations manager, Carl Fernandez, also indicated that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education wrote to schools instructing them not to buy buses from them.
The Financial Gazette is in possession of the copy of the letter, which was circulated to provincial education directors last year.
On June 24 last year, Sylvia Utete-Masango, the permanent secretary in the ministry wrote: “…..schools are instructed to submit their bus requirements through their district and provincial offices. Provinces will consolidate the bus requirements and submit to head office so that a bulk purchase can be done and savings realised through quantity discounts.
“Head office will approach the following bus companies for quotations – AVM, Deven Engineering and FAW Zimbabwe. The ministry also conducted a due diligence on the three companies and found that FAW Zimbabwe and AVM are quite capable of meeting the needs of the schools in terms of provision of buses but there was not much activity going on at Deven Engineering.”
Chegutu West legislator and chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport, Dexter Nduna, hinted that there was need to interrogate the importation process as it could be muddled in serious corruption.
Nduna said there was no logic for government to continue importing vehicles that are locally available.
“You tell me that you have been manufacturing vehicles that government has been and is currently importing and you are here seated quietly. It doesn’t make sense. Gentlemen tell me, ndiani wamusina kupa mari? Pane akakutii bvisai mari here mukarega? (did you fail to give someone a bribe to be given vehicle orders, is that the case?” questioned Nduna.
Another committee member, Munacho Mutezo, also questioned why the motor industry was excluded from the Statutory Instrument 64 that banned the importation of goods and products that are locally manufactured.
Investigations indicated that the importation of vehicles has been marred by corruption of the highest order.
Reports show that more than 400 cars are believed to have been smuggled into the country this year alone by an alleged syndicate of ZIMRA officials and clearing agents, who have been processing counterfeit undervalued import documents to smuggle vehicles.
ZIMRA’s top brass, namely commissioner general Gershem Pasi, Charlton Chihuri, loss control director; Anna Mutombodzi, commissioner of customs and excise; Tjiyapo Velempini, director ICT and infrastructural development; Clive Charles Majengwa, director internal audit; and Sithokozile Thembani Mrewa, director human resources, were recently sent on leave after it emerged that there were gross anomalies in the way their vehicles were imported.
The quintuplet were given loans ranging between US$90 000 to US$120 000 to purchase Toyota Prados and Toyota Land Cruisers, but the vehicles were declared as budget cars to avoid paying higher duties.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee fears that this could only be a tip of an iceberg.
“Our major function is to interrogate the way the Executive carries out its mandate and we do that without any impediments, without any cubs. And we don’t take any prisoners and we do not allow any square pegs in round holes.
“So we have come here and what is left is for you to see the results. We are a third arm of the State and we are not a broken arm. We are here because there have been failure of implementation and this is why we are here to make sure that government policies are implemented,” said Nduna.
Ironically, four months ago Mnangagwa indicated that government had the ability to turnaround the motor industry overnight.
“Do you know that if we implement a policy that government, not even parastatals just government institutions alone, let’s say our transport sector shall be supplied here, overnight you go up to 60 percent capacity utilisation, overnight.
“But because we were not so sure what was happening in our own country, we continue to buy cars, these can be off-road vehicles; it could be Pajeros, it could be Mercedes Benz; it could be small cars… we spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year, but cars are here,” Mnangagwa indicated back then.
The Zimbabwe Statistical Agency notes that the country imported vehicles worth US$469,78 million in 2014 and US$620 million the previous year, money that could have easily transformed the face of the local motor industry.
Follow us on Twitter @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette